When Apple executives speak to the press, pay attention. They may dodge. They may fail to disclose some facts, overemphasize others. But, and this is critical, Apple executives who speak on the record always reveal what they are thinking.
Surprise. Apple executives think a great deal about Microsoft.
Mostly, they think Microsoft has got it completely wrong. In this case, however, I hope it is Apple that is proven wrong.
Last week, Macworld scored a very rare interview with key Apple executives. The men spoke on the occasion of the Mac’s 30th anniversary. That the Mac (in its many forms) is thirty is a truly laudable achievement. For so long, the Mac was marginalized. So much so, in fact, that Steve Jobs had no choice but to turn to the iPod. No more. Today, Mac survives and by the great metric of profits, even thrives.
Which is why I find it so odd that in granting their interview, the Apple executives spoke so little about the Mac’s rather inspiring tale and instead directed jab after jab toward Microsoft’s unified OS strategy.
This, dear reader, is what we call a tell.
Hardware Trumps All Else
From Macworld’s brief interview, consider the many times Apple execs suggest that the current Windows strategy is all wrong:
“It’s obvious and easy enough to slap a touchscreen on a piece of hardware, but is that a good experience? We believe, no.”
“We don’t waste time thinking, ‘But it should be one [interface]!’ How do you make these [operating systems] merge together?’ What a waste of energy that would be.”
“To say [OS X and iOS] should be the same, independent of their purpose? Let’s just converge, for the sake of convergence? [It’s] absolutely a non goal ”
“You don’t want to say the Mac became less good at being a Mac because someone tried to turn it into iOS.”
“There’s a natural form factor that drives the optimal experience for each of those things. And I think what we are focused on is delivering the tailored, optimal experience for those kinds of ways that you work, without trying to take a one-size-fits-all solution to it.”
Tim Cook appeared on ABC in large part to talk about the Mac at 30. The company created a splashy new landing page at Apple.com to celebrate thirty years of Macintosh. Apple execs spoke to the press as part of the Mac’s celebration. Yet, Apple’s conversation continues to come back to that central theme: Microsoft is doing it wrong.
Partly, it’s because no matter how rich Apple is now, old grudges never fully heal. It’s also representative of the fact that, at least in part, Apple is smart enough to let sales direct strategy. Consider that for the last quarter, Apple will sell about 50 million iPhones, 25 million iPads, and probably less than 5 million Macs. There is simply no incentive for the company to even suggest a Mac OSX – iOS convergence.
I hope they are wrong.
Many Modes. Many Devices. One Interface.
I want my various “computers” — defined here as at least my smartphone, tablet, desktop, laptop, wearable watch, television and even car dashboard — to essentially operate as similarly as possible, preferably with a unified user interface and application set across all.
Yes, my many computers are for different tasks and will be used at different times, in different settings. I will want to use a keyboard and mouse for some activities, touch for others, my voice for still others. That said, I want all my devices to have a UI that looks and feels and functions similarly. Even more, I want a singular user experience across all devices and across all modes of interaction. Thus, Mac knows my touch and my voice exactly as iPhone. My iPad screen and Mac screen are essentially swappable.
It’s troubling to me that the world’s biggest computer company can’t seem to make this work. When I hear Apple execs mocking Microsoft’s UI strategy I think it’s an opportunity lost.
Apple has survived and prospered because of its rather profound understanding of the opportunities presented by its own limitations. Whereas Google is almost infinitely scalable, there are hard limits on what Apple can do. Thus, their relentless multi-decade focus on maximizing the potential of a fully integrated hardware-software-services ecosystem. The result is the world’s best smartphone, best tablet, best laptop.
It’s no longer enough. As data shifts to the cloud, hardware becomes increasingly de-constructed. Desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, an assortment of wearables, connected cars, connected homes and on and on. I want the very best of each of these. I also want each of these to operate with the same essential template.
Perhaps I can’t have that, now now, maybe not ever. But it bothers me that it is Apple which seems so determined to accept multiple OSes across multiple form factors. Here’s a case, frankly, where I hope Microsoft wins.